When you consider that some 87% of white-collar crime involves embezzlement by a company’s bookkeeper or financial administrator, the need for third-party or outsourced financial management begins to come into focus.
Often, the books of a small business or startup are kept by a family member or friend, but a rudimentary knowledge of QuickBooks hardly qualifies someone to make or to advise on the decisions every business owner faces. Like, how to manage cash flow? How to interpret a P&L? This is why Sharon Dubois teamed with Glenn Sandler of GI Tax to launch U.S. Bookkeeping Company (USBC), a service paired with Sandler’s tax service,
to franchise booking services for the small business market.
EW: Who is the target client of USBC?
SD: We are looking to help the small business operator with five to 15 employees. We found that market is very large, but also largely underserved. When you are smaller than that, bookkeeping and payroll aren’t that complex, but once you cross that threshold, you need more sophisticated services. What Glenn and I found was most bookkeeping or CPA firms start running the timer as soon as a client calls. It is about billable hours. I have had clients call me and say, ‘I have a question, but I can only afford to talk for 15 minutes.’ I tell them, I am here to help and ensure they really understand the answers I am giving.
EW: So, you serve as a small business financial coach?
SD: In a sense, yes. A company’s finances are like the instruments in an airplane’s cockpit. If those instruments are not visible or you don’t know how to interpret them, you are flying blind. How often have I heard a business owner say, ‘We are bringing in all this money, but I don’t understand where it all goes?” Or, “How can we have all these sales, but we don’t seem to be making money?” Showing the business owner what the financial management tools are, how to interpret them and how to use them to guide their business is what we do.
EW: Are you from this area?
SD: I was actually born and grew up in Melbourne and went to Mel High. But after being born here, when I was nine, we relocated to Maine, where I fell in love with horseback riding. We did come back though, and I finished high school here.
From there I went to what is now Eastern Florida State and was planning to go into special education, mainly because of my involvement with Special Olympics. I landed a job a in that field, but found the emotional toll was not something I managed well at that age. Then someone offered me a job as a bookkeeper for an electrical contractor.
EW: What connected for you about the field?
SD: It really wasn’t until later that I developed a sort of passion for it. I took a few years off when I had my daughter and when I went back into the workforce, it was as an inventory auditor. I found I loved the job and grew into a regional manager, covering from Daytona to Wabasso, with crews of up to 350. We would go into a retailer, like a Home Depot, and do an inventory audit, counting every nut, bolt and fixture. Then I would compare cash reports and inventory reports, with our findings. It was fun, but the hours were crushing.
EW: What did you learn?
SD: I discovered that people are so unique and how different individuals must be matched to the type of role and responsibility they are best suited for. It really carried over to this business. Most accountants and bookkeepers aren’t real outgoing people persons. They like number crunching. But to be effective, you have to interface with the business owner, to
be responsive and anticipate their questions.
EW: How did you get back into bookkeeping?
SD: When I went back to work, it was doing payroll and bookkeeping for a small company, I realized how challenging that was. Then, when I went to work for an actual bookkeeping company, I began to help owners move from being a fledgling startup, to growth and to profit. It was an incredible experience being a part of that incredible process. That is when the excitement for this profession took hold of me. Bookkeeping can be mind-numbingly boring, but when you can teach an owner how to understand, utilize and discover the power of the reports we provide, that was really satisfying.
EW: What were the common denominators you found among small business owners?
SD: They love what the do. Whether it is a product or service, to hear them talk about it just pulls you in. The downside is they know about their product or service, but they don’t understand the other aspects, particularly the financial aspects, of running a business. That is where it stung me, when I realized customers were watching the clock, as much as they were listening to me about what I was trying to help them with. Which then led me to start my own company, so I could do customer service my way.
EW: So how did you connect with Glenn Sandler and GI Tax?
SD: We got to know each other because my bookkeeping clients were talking to him about me and vise versa. When I met with Glenn he said, ‘Sharon you aren’t selling bookkeeping, you are selling customer service.’ And when I thought about it, he was right, that is why I wanted to start my own business, to offer more customized services. Because of our week by week involvement we can help track both positive trends and negative signs. We have caught embezzlement and employee theft. We aren’t just responding or recording, after the fact.
EW: What’s the future?
SD: This paring of tax services with bookkeeping is something every business owner needs and looks for. Glenn kept referring clients to me, but we were maxed out. Then early last year he called me and said he wanted to open a bookkeeping company. I said, ‘Great.’ Then he said he wanted to open it with me. Glenn had a franchise mentality, along with providing me with a high-level support system. Now we are refining the business model and the processes. The challenge then is finding the person or persons who find the endorphin boost in helping others out, who have the skill sets that are needed and who enjoy working with entrepreneurs, not just doing data entry.